We're just about half way to Ingalls. Chips are falling, Ridgefield's not losing and we're starting to see the true colors of most squads. We will take this time to recognize each team's mid-season most valuable players. Please read this next disclaimer. This is a celebration of the kids being mentioned here. This is not in anyway a slight towards anyone not mentioned. That said, let's take a look!
DIVISION I (in order of current CIAC ranking)
Ridgefield: Nick Cullinan (Sr. F) Cullinan has lived up to his preseason billing. He leads the vaunted Tigers offense in goals with 22 and has been the state's best player. His linemates Will Forrest and Matt Walker are elite as well. In fact, there's about 8-10 Tigers that would be MVP's elsewhere. Loaded doesn't begin to define them.
Northwest Catholic: Brennan Horn (Jr. F) Horn is elusive, sneaky and has a deft goal scoring touch. His 11 goals don't really tell the story of how impactful of a player he is. His contributions have been key to keeping the Lions undefeated.
Hamden: AJ Luedee (Sr. F) Hamden's captain and all around glue guy, Luedee often falls under the radar when discussing some of the better players in the state. On a very good Hamden team, Luedee leads the team in points (8/13/21) but does all the little things oh so well each night.
Darien: James Gregory (Sr. D) Gregory, like the aforementioned Luedee, sometimes is forgotten. With Darien's talented sophomore class and supremely gifted goaltender, it's easy to forget a dependable defenseman. Gregory does everything right, positionally is sound and contributes offensively in a way that has made Darien one of the best teams in the state.
New Canaan: Dylan Shane (Sr. G) Shane has only allowed more than three goals twice this year and one of those times was against Ridgefield. A converted skater, Shane's progression as a goalie is something to behold. We said he might platoon this year in our preview. Boy, were we wrong.
West Haven: Jared Pliszka (Jr. G) Pliszka was a name we weren't entirely familiar with at the beginning of the season but he has been such a bright spot for Joe Morrell's squad this year. With three other goalies in the mix, including a senior in Noah Iversen, Pliszka has performed admirably, keeping the Westies in games and allowing them to be in the mix for home ice.
NDWH: John D'Errico (So. F) Truth be told, I coach John in baseball in the summer. I never expected his impact to be so great this year in all phases. A big body with a heavy shot, D'Errico has notched game winners, planted big hits and has really come on the scene with authority.
Fairfield Co-op: Kevin Quinn (Sr. F) Quinn was excellent the night I got to see the Mustangs. He currently leads the co-op in points and is as dependable as they come. He's a big, strong kid with a good shot leading a group that has more than a couple guys who could be mentioned here. Side: The MVP for the second half of this year, no matter what happens on the ice is Will Capalbo.
Greenwich: Matt Davey (Sr. F) Davey can mean, punishing and certainly packs a punch but he levels that out with a deft scoring touch and a leadership quality that is huge for a Cardinals team that lost a lot.
Fairfield Prep: Colin Bella (Sr. F) Bella has nine goals, seven assists on the year. He's a master on the power play with half of his points coming there. Sticking with the special teams game, he has two short handed goals on the year as well. On a team thinner than most Jesuit squads, Bella commands attention each night.
NFI: Sam Mitchell (Sr. F) I've enjoyed watching Sam play for years. He's always been a name mentioned when you think of the top guys in any conversation regarding NFI hockey. Now, in a year in flux, he shows up every night, dazzles and impresses. He deserved a better fate his senior year, but you'd never know the postseason isn't in this kid's future when you watch him play.
Simsbury: Cole Chapman (Jr. F) By far the best player on Simsbury, Chapman could be one of the best players and goal scorers in the entire state. Buried up north, many forget about Chapman. He's as solid as they come.
Xavier: Chase Maxwell (Sr. F) We knew Chase would have a big year after being the right hand man to a few departed Falcons. Chase has been one of the only constants coming out of Xavier this year. An absolute beauty and a hell of a hockey player and leader.
ND Fairfield: Nate Stiles (Sr. F) Averaging over a point a game on a team who's had their fair share of struggles this year, Stiles is the model of consistency for the Lancers.
St. Joseph: Chris Higgins (Sr. G) & Will Brady (Sr. G): St. Joseph has had a tough year, but the only reason they've been in a few of their losses this year was due to the efforts of this two-headed senior goalie tandem. 40+ saves on any given night has become commonplace for these two.
DIVISION II (in order of current CIAC ranking)
Guilford: John Delucia (Sr. F) I almost went off the reservation and went with an unsung senior like Jake Watrous or underclassman like Jack Dacey or Connor Hagness, but it's Johnny Hockey. What Delucia has done over his tenure at Guilford will be permanently etched in the record books, ultimately an easy choice.
South Windsor: Cam O'Connor (Sr. F) Cam can find the back of the net. He often picks dramatic moments to do it. O'Connor has been fun to follow over his career at South Windsor and it's rewarding to see him and a guy like Dante Colon have a really competitive, championship-seeking senior campaign.
Watertown-Pomperaug: Troy Harwell (Sr. F) Well, it was down to two. Ryan Fleming is Ryan Fleming. He's made our chins hit the floor on numerous occasions over the years. I went with Harwell simply because of his impact offensively on a team that's thin in the goal scoring department. Harwell now has 18 goals and nearly half of the teams offensive production.
Branford: Jack Manware (Jr. F) Branford has a few kids that could be mentioned here but the maturity and consistency of Manware is what gave him the nod. Jack's name floods box scores each and every night on a team that has plenty of guys to join him.
Farmington Valley: Owen Lacourciere (Sr. F) The year that Lacourciere is having is going unnoticed by many, but this kid is off to an MVP season. It's becoming more common to see that Owen tallied a multi-goal than the contrary.
WMRP: Trevor Piecewicz (Jr. F) The fact that this kid can play both forward and defense is huge when talking about his importance. Piecewicz thrives in all phases and is a rock for a WMRP team looking to shock some people.
East Catholic: Rowan Masse (Fr. F) This kid has burst on the scene and is among a handful of Eagles that pose major problems for opponents. Considering he's a freshman and he's contributed in the way he has, the future is bright for him and EC.
Amity: Jason Csejka (Sr. F) Amity's top all around guy, Csejka will never go unnoticed when you go to watch the Spartans play. He can be physical when needed but also has a tact and finesse about him that is hard to equal.
EO Smith: Owen Stacey (Sr. F) This was a hard one. Gavin Till, Ross Lennon, Bryan Roy have all had really great years but at the end of the day, it's Owen Stacey. His elusiveness, speed, agility and ability to not only score but to create the eventual score is rare and he's a gem.
Cheshire: Nick Maringola (Jr. G) Nicky Maringola isn't entirely getting a ton of offensive support (Cheshire averages like 2 goals per game). That hasn't stopped him from posting a 1.60 GAA and leading Cheshire to a winning record. One of the state's best goalies and at times, he needs to be.
Glastonbury: Adam Poetto (Jr. F) Speed kills and that's why Poetto is an assassin. This kid is offensively gifted but can tantalize a defense with the best of em. There are others on the Tomahawks' roster that could be mentioned here, but his unique skill set stands alone.
Eastern CT Eagles: Evan Tower (Jr. F) I say this with a straight face. Evan Tower is the #cthk DII equivalent of Patrick Kane. The way he can use his speed and size to his advantage and at times comically eluding defenders is insane. He sits at 16 goals, 33 points half way through. He will reach 100 points within two years of high school hockey. Stud.
Westhill-Stamford: Tucker Healy (So. F) Westhill-Stamford is loaded with talented underclassmen. Healy is one that has notched multiple multi-point games on the year and can dominate on any given night. His family lineage is strong. Looking forward to what this kid can continue to achieve.
East Haven Co-op: Dave Amatruda (So. F) If we were to give out an early season MVP it would totally have been Logan Hamilton. Amatruda, however, has really been consistent in terms of his production all year. A strong, physically advanced sophomore, Amatruda's nose for the net is hard to match.
Woodstock Academy: Matt Odom (Sr. F) Odom has put together a nice career for the Centaurs. There are some of certainly qualified guys on this squad to get this recognition but like many of the other players I've mentioned here, it's the consistency Odom brings each night.
Trumbull: Alex Jackel (Sr. F) Jackel has been around forever it seems. His 6 goals lead a very well distributed Trumbull offense and his ability to be + player cannot go unnoticed. Always a quality effort out of this senior leader.
Conard: Brendan Battiston (Sr. F) Much to the chagrin of the Hall-Southington favorite, I'm giving the nod to this hulking offensive presence. In his senior year, Battiston has really found his scoring touch and is consistently lighting the lamp for Tornaquindici's Chieftains.
SGWL: Remington Ferrari (Jr. F) 21 points and 14 goals in ten games, Ferrari has only had one game this year where he didn't light the lamp. That consistency and laser focused scoring ability has been a blessing for first year coach Jake King. Also, sick name.
Hall-Southington: Mike DiPietro (Sr. F) DiPietro has put together a great career at Hall-Southington and in a year where wins are hard to come by, he's really been a reliable option and weapon for the Warrior-Knights. He can certainly be flashy, but flash doesn't mean anything without steady production, something he's not lacking.
North Branford: Sean McKee (Sr. F) It'll be tough saying goodbye to Sean at North Branford. His career has been one that is tough to match. Despite being keyed by most defenses, McKee continually lights the lamp and gives his T-Birds a fighting chance each night.
North Haven: Donny Funaro (Jr. D) One of my favorite players in the state, the smooth skating Funaro doesn't always end up on the score sheet but it's the small things that he does so well. He's never out of position, doesn't always look to shoot first and gives North Haven a dependable back end presence that is certainly needed.
DIVISION III (in order of current CIAC ranking)
Daniel Hand: Eric Dillner (So. G) With a depth of scoring that is rather commendable, it's been Dillner's play in net that has gotten better and better with each game. Dillner has logged every second in net for Hand this year and in six games against non-DIII competition, he's only allowed more than 3 goals against, once.
BBD: Alex Fernandes (Sr G) When BBD has needed Fernandes to steal a game, he has. On a team where goal scoring has been sparse and being outshot has become commonplace, Fernandes has risen to the occasion numerous times. A dependable back end and life line for the IceCats.
LHK: Kyle Roberts (Sr. F) The Trojans leading point scorer, Roberts has not taken his foot off the gas his entire career. His point presence on the power play and propensity to find the big goal has been a staple over his career. This, by no means, takes away from the year junior Matt Pettit has had.
Newington Co-op: Ethan Ranger (Sr. F) Ranger has elevated his game to another level this year. He leads a very evenly dispersed Indians squad in scoring with 10 goals and 10 assists. A major factor in them pretty much locking down home ice in the DIII tourney.
Sheehan: Tyler Robertson (Sr. G) With so many offensive options full of talented, capable scorers, even in a year where Sheehan is a favorite, we still forget about how good Robertson can be and has been. Four shutouts on the year, only half way through is infinitely impressive. One of the best goalies at the DIII level.
Newtown: Markus Paltauf (Fr. G) The undersized freshman netminder has been outstanding for the Nighthawks this year. Without his contributions who knows where Newtown would be. A bright future for this young man.
Tri-Town: Mike Shuman (Sr. F) One of the best goal scorers at the DIII level, Shuman was a key cog in Tri-Town's deep run last year and will be counted on again if they are to make another run. A man, physically advanced, Shuman is a matchup problem every time he steps on the ice.
Wilton: David Overbeeke (So. F) This kid burst on the scene scoring at will for Miserendino's boys. While leadership will never be questioned from a guy like Dean DiNanno, it's the addition of an elite goal scorer like Overbeeke that has made Wilton one of the better teams at the DIII level.
JBWA: Daniel McKiernan (So. F) Very similar to the aforementioned Overbeeke, McKiernan gives JBWA a complementary option to the returning Andrew Powell. Mix in the talented Travis Nussbaum and the Knights are for real. McKiernan has 38 points, 23 goals and has been down right unstoppable for most of the season.
New Milford: Zach Hook (Sr. F) Along side talented senior Evan Golembeske, Hook has made a huge splash now in his second go around of CIAC hockey. 15 goals leads a New Milford team starving for goal scoring. Hook's a threat each game and the opposition knows this, yet they still can't stop him.
Redhawks: Steven Turchetta (So. F) Turchetta had a nice freshman year with six goals. He's exploded this year and made such strides it would be a travesty not to recognize him here. Hidden away in the southeast corner of the state, Turchetta is a name not many are familiar with. Remember it.
Staples: Dylan Mace (Sr. G) It's been a turbulent year for the Wreckers. One that doesn't have many constants or security. Mace has been that constant. His effort is never questioned and his ability to come up big in the biggest of spots has been evident.
Trinity Catholic: Jeffrey Reda (So. G) A remarkably pleasant addition to Tucker Grose's small band of battlers, Reda has posted a 1.87 GAA and a .902 save % on a below .500 team. He's stopped 30+ saves in all but one game this year and has been forced to stop 50+ on more than one occasion. Jack Kinahan is a world class beauty, but the MVP, at this point, belongs to the Crusaders' netminder.
Enfield Co-op: Patrick Fleming (Sr. F) There were a few guys I considered when looking over the Eagles. Fleming is just always in the mix. His 8 goals, 8 assists don't tell the whole story when it comes to what this kid means to the Eagles, a team who now more than ever, need senior leadership.
Northeastern: Sean Power (Sr. F), Max Sendley (Sr. F), Kyle Johnson (Sr. F) I couldn't pick just one. Their senior dominance has been a main reason that Northeastern isn't the pushover that BCR teams of the past have been. These names flood Shamrocks box scores and prove the next man up philosophy is alive and well in Bolton.
Housatonic-NW-Wam: Jack McAuliffe (Sr. F) Housy's leading scorer and heart, McAuliffe is the lifeblood of a struggling Housy squad. Housy has always been a tough out. This year they've fought it more than they've had to in the past. One guy not fighting it is McAuliffe, an all-world talent.
Masuk: Tag Weiss (Sr. G) 8 times this year, Weiss has had to spot 30+ shots. He's on a rebuilding Masuk group that really struggles to put the puck in the net which only amplifies how important and steady he's needed to be. He'll finish his senior year on a losing team, but maybe, just maybe he can do enough to get his team into the dance on last time.
Norwalk-McMahon: Jeb Boyrer (Jr. F) I liked this kid last year because his name was Jeb and I thought that was cool. Now, his name has taken on more significance as Norwalk-McMahon's best player. Boyrer is a skilled, shifty forward who has a nose for the net and leads his squad with 8 goals, 6 assists.
Shepaug: Cazden Brenner (So. F) After a nice freshman year, Brenner has become a star for Shepaug. He leads the team with 15 points, which on a Shepaug team, is pretty astronomical considering the amount the Spartans score.
Milford Co-op: Matt Gilebbi (Jr. F/D) One of the bright spots in an otherwise lost season, Gilebbi regularly gives Milford a fighting shot in games where they have no reason being in it. A gifted scorer, Gilebbi is the most dangerous option Milford has.